These mighty dogs and cats should each take a bow for saving us and their animal friends this year.

Pets are heroes already for putting up with all our, uh, foibles, but there are several dogs and cats this year who went even further, saving the lives of both people and their animal brethren. 

Their enemies range from snakes to trauma, from coronavirus to alligators. Our pets faced them all, proving yet again that we hardly deserve them. I know I wouldn't stand up well to anything like that. 

best pet hero stories of 2021 with tuxedo cat in photo
Credit: Mark / Adobe Stock

Anyway, here are our 11 favorite pet heroes from 2021: 

Astro Saves Owner from Medical Emergency

This smart dog knew his owner needed medical attention immediately, so he raised a ruckus with his barks. A passerby noticed him and his owner and was able to call paramedics, saving Astro's owner's life. Good boy. 

A Hero Named Hero

This little guy was able to free himself from a house where he and other animals had been hoarded, allowing rescuers to free five other dogs who were trapped inside. After five long months, the well-named Hero finally found his forever home. 

Long Live King Arthur

This domestic shorthair jumped between his small human siblings and an eastern brown snake, one of the deadliest animals in Australia. He sadly succumbed to his injuries after the attack. 

New K-9 Officer Finds Missing Child in 5 Minutes

When Pepper the Dutch shepherd was asked to help find a missing child in small-town Iowa, she managed to located the kiddo in only 5 minutes—an amazing achievement for a dog who was barely 1 year old. 

Duck Yeah, Beauty 

dog cuddling with duck after saving him from and alligator
Credit: Courtesy of Misti Roberts

The Roberts family's ducks generally didn't return Beauty the black Lab's affection, but that didn't stop her from saving them when an alligator attacked outside their Florida home. The reptile bit Beauty and broke her leg, but the hero pooch was still able to recover and return to her ducks. 

Darling Doodle Digby

When a woman in England was considering taking her life on a bridge back in June, the local fire department deployed their therapy dog, a Labradoodle named Digby. He was able to assist in diffusing the situation and help the woman return to safety. 

Oggy the Cancer Detector

Perhaps using his super-smelling nose, Oggy the cat kept trying to snuggle up against his owner's chest. Months later, his owner noticed a mass and was diagnosed with breast cancer. He seemed to have known what was there. 

Buffy the COVID Hunter

Speaking of super smelling, Buffy the yellow Lab has spent much of her time on earth as a COVID-19 detection dog, keeping some of the most vulnerable—hospital patients—safe by screening visitors with an accuracy rate of 95 percent. 

Therapy Dogs Assist Astroworld Survivors

The Astroworld tragedy in Houston left many of its survivors in shock or duress as they returned to the concert site to pick up their belongings. Thankfully, several therapy dogs from San Antonio were there to help them feel a little better. 

Summer Saves Lives

Summer posing with Sergeant Micah Jones
Credit: Courtesy of Sgt. Micah Jones

Staff Sgt. Summer was an explosive-detection dog with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, saving an unknown number of lives. These days, she visits veterans and offers them love and comfort. 

Moms Rule

An 8-month-old puppy became trapped beneath a boulder for 20 hours back in March. Thankfully, the golden retriever's mom was able to track her scent and help rescuers locate and eventually save her baby.